If I’m being honest, I have been struggling with self harm since the beginning of lockdown. That is something I never thought, after all this time, I would have to say again. However, these circumstances are extremely challenging. I am resilient, but I have limits. Covid-19 has well and truly tested my ability to function in every day life.
And yet, if it’s happening to me, it must also be happening to millions, everywhere.
I could choose to speak generally about mental health, to omit that personal detail entirely, and I’m temped to do that. However, I often speak about the importance of openness and honesty when trying to break stigmas. Therefore, I need to be bold and not back down because I’m afraid that people will think less of me. The vast majority of me just thinks ‘fuck it, talking about mental health is so much more important’. The amount of people that say to me ‘I thought I was the only one experiencing that’ are more important. Creating a world where we can talk is more important.
I’ve personally found lockdown difficult for many reasons. The educational and social focuses in my life that have been so instrumental in maintaining a relatively stable day-day life are no longer present. At the moment, I have left uni and am stuck in a home town that I have tried hard to escape from and tried to build an adult life away from. There’s nothing wrong with it geographically, it’s not a bad place to live, but it’s not where I thrive. It is not where I want to be living my life as a young person. The usual coping strategies that I have learnt to turn to-going out to the cinema, keeping busy, meeting up with people etc-are no longer as accessible. The lack of control has disempowered me. Naturally, disempowerment leads to poor coping mechanisms. The courses of action that I would usually take to avoid self destruction are out of reach. It has been hard to adjust. It has been hard to re-adjust. It has been hard to regress.
We are all hurting right now. We are all battling to win wars under very difficult circumstances. We are all fighting to see better days, to feel better things. It just so happens that some of us have physical ways of coping with the mental unease. It is not just those who have had past form with stereotypical self harm currently facing relapses-but many, with all forms of self destructive behaviours. Some have not relapsed with anything physical at all, but are suffering just as significantly mentally.
What we- as a society in crisis- forget is that, purely because there is new turmoil and universal distress, our own personal traumas and struggles continue to exist in parallel. Of course they do. How could they possibly not? Just because a pandemic exists outside of ourselves, we do not cease to suffer individually. Everything that was troubling us before continues to trouble us. Now, however, we have an extra layer. A layer which, to those of us who work very hard to maintain a healthy frame of mind, can push us over the fine line between coping and failing to cope.
I think we feel as if we have no ‘right’ to be personally miserable. However, I think, in itself, that concept is venomous: yet also something I am guilty of punishing myself over. I believe that the vast majority of us chastise ourselves as a result of feeling ‘down’-because we ‘shouldn’t’, because ‘it could be worse’, because we ‘should’ be grateful for our blessings. But that has never been the nature of mental health. The truth is that we feel what we feel. That is the only thing anything ever boils down to. If it hurts you, it hurts you. There is no reason to feel ‘wrong’ for acknowledging that fact.
Yes, it is important to recognise that the world is suffering deeply. The Black Lives Matter movement is incredibly important. What is happening in Yemen is important, and terrible, and outrageous. The global pandemic is important. But so is mental health. Although I often fail to acknowledge it, what matters to me is important. What matters to you is important. The pain we’re experiencing is important, and valid, and worthy of fixing, or managing. It is okay-actually no, not okay, but essential-to also give a shit about ourselves. I am not always best at taking my own advice, but increasingly more so I am trying.
Among the world of fitness fanatics, dieters claiming this is the exact moment in time we should be taking the time to ‘detox and cleanse’, and people boasting of their increased productivity and new lease of life, the reality is this:
There are almost undoubtedly more of us hurting than thriving right now. We are not acclimated to these circumstances. The situation we’re in right now-somewhat isolated from close contact with friends and family, unable to occupy ourselves with daytrips and, fundamentally, work-is one that trained therapists actively tell us to avoid. It is no wonder that this is horrendously difficult for a lot of people.
There must be so many people relapsing in lockdown. It is somewhat of an inevitability. I don’t think that makes us weaker or lesser, even if we thought we had fought certain demons and won: we are trying our best to live in unprecedented and extremely testing times.
Until we win again, we’re going to need to talk-and keep talking-until it’s over. We are going to have to talk throughout the days and throughout the nights until better times come. The reality is that this will end at some point; inevitably, it has to. No one really knows when or how, but it will. To reach the end of each day right now is enough. When suffering, it will always be enough. That is the only task we must focus on right now.
We will win again.
Until then, we just hold tight.